When decorating for the holidays, start with what you already own, then look for fresh ways to showcase it.
That’s the year-round mantra of sisters and design partners Liz Knutson and Kathy Keehn of One Day Design, who specialize in helping clients redecorate by using what they have.
Sure, it’s tempting to buy when you see the dazzling new seasonal decor in stores.
“It’s hard not to be mesmerized,” Knutson said. But she and Keehn counsel clients to shop their attics, basements and storage closets first.
Once you’ve taken inventory of your stuff, it’s time to edit. Don’t overwhelm your home by displaying every seasonal tchotchke you’ve inherited or been given. Instead, focus on pieces you truly love or that best complement your home. Then use that curated collection of heirlooms — enhanced by inexpensive and DIY accents — to create vignettes for tabletops, mantels and walls.
Designers: Liz Knutson and Kathy Keehn, One Day Design, 612-812-1712 (Facebook: One Day Design)
Holiday style: Simple and Scandinavian-inspired, with an emphasis on cherished heirlooms, natural materials and playful touches. The designing sisters teamed up to decorate Knutson’s Minneapolis home for this year’s holiday season.
Bar star: You don’t need an elaborate built-in bar or costly cart to set up a festive self-serve beverage station for holiday gatherings. Knutson’s husband built a small one in their basement for about $50, using scrap boards, fence posts for legs and some old shelving. On the bar top, Knutson arranged aquavit glasses on an antique mirror “tray,” accented by a single silver ornament on a small silver pedestal. And don’t forget to stock your bar with a festive nonalcoholic beverage choice, she noted. “There are so many nondrinkers now. You need a good option for them.”
Holiday al fresco: Even though it’s December in Minnesota, make the most of your outdoor spaces, advised Knutson. On her backyard patio, for example, she set up a spot for sipping cocoa. A “centerpiece” — a metal bucket filled with greenery cut from her own evergreens and battery-operated white lights — adds a hint of winter wonderland ambience.
Instant artwork: Children’s holiday art projects make great seasonal artwork. Knutson takes her grown children’s finger-painted Santas and crayoned Christmas trees and puts them in simple frames. “There should be something childlike for Christmas, even for adults,” she said. Framing elevates simple kids’ creations into playful statement pieces. “It looks so different when you frame stuff,” she said. Pages from calendars are another inexpensive source of festive artwork. “Calendars are a gold mine. Rip out the pictures, and frame them for the holidays.”
DIY decor: To dress up her lower-level fireplace, Knutson took a large, no-frills mirror and created an eye-catching “frame” for it, using a glue gun and driftwood she found near Lake Nokomis. In front of the mirror, she hung a wreath she made of grapevine stems and decorated with sprays of wood slices from a craft store.
Repurpose rooms: During the holidays, Knutson likes to mix things up. “It’s fun putting the dining room in the living room in front of the fireplace,” she said. This year, she created a small cozy dining area on her four-season porch. “It’s so fun to eat out here at night — like being at the cabin.” A raffia Santa serves as a centerpiece. She set the table with Norwegian plates featuring skiing trolls, vintage holly mugs, antler-topped place cards and a vintage tablecloth with a pine-cone motif, embroidered by her grandmother.
Let there be light: Today’s battery-operated strings of lights make it easy to brighten up spaces that lack access to an electrical outlet or where a plug-in cord would be impractical or unsightly, Keehn noted. The sisters draped Knutson’s dining-room chandelier with lights and evergreens, to add extra twinkle, for example.
Take hue cues: Although many of Knutson’s holiday heirlooms are the traditional red and green in color, she doesn’t use them in her living room, which she decorates in understated neutral shades. “Red never looks good in here,” she said, thanks to her woodwork, which has a lot of warm orange tones. Instead, she dresses her mantel with an array of evergreens, pheasant feathers, pine cones and sparkling ornaments in bronze and silver. “I’m working with the room — not fighting with it.”
Decorate in unexpected places: One space that most guests will see is the powder room. Why not give it a few festive touches? A simple snowman display on a shelf adds seasonal cheer to an oft-overlooked space.